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Books by Wendy Kaminer


Worst InstinctsFrom Enron era scandals and political malfeasance to the current financial crisis and governance failures of charitable organizations revealed by the Madoff debacle, the past eight years have been marked by declines in attentive, ethical leadership in government, business, and not for profit groups. Worst Instincts tells the surprising story of conformity, suppression of dissent, and betrayal of principle at the highest levels of the American Civil Liberties Union. Kaminer dissects the loss of honesty and transparency at an organization dedicated to preserving them. As she notes in her introduction, “The descent of a civil liberties organization into a soft and unself-conscious authoritarianism provides an eloquent case study in collective perversity.”

"Standing up to your political enemies is easy, fun and often profitable. Taking public issue with your friends and allies on a matter of great principle is none of these, but it is a far more important service to others. I am enormously grateful to Wendy Kaminer for the intellectual integrity and moral courage this book represents." - Congressman Barney Frank

"The willingness to criticize your own based on principles you would apply to others is a measure of integrity. Kaminer's important book about her beloved ACLU has that integrity. She tells a startling, sad and exceptionally well-documented story." - Ira Glasser, former executive director, ACLU

"Witty, trenchant, devastating, Worst Instincts is a study of institutional decay, of how good organizations, blinded by the righteousness of their mission, do bad things." - Jack Beatty, author of Age of Betrayal and "On Point" News Analyst

"(C)ompelling...brave and informative." - Publishers Weekly

* Material cited in Worst Instincts, including records of ACLU meetings, memos, and correspondence from board and staff members, will be available in the Beacon Press archive at the Andover Harvard Theological Library, Harvard Divinity School, Cambridge Mass.

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Free For AllIn this collection, Kaminer sets her sights set on civil liberties in 21st century America. Opening with a powerful overview of liberty's tenuous hold on this "land of the free," Kaminer offers incisive, original investigations of political freedom post-September 11 and reviews perennial threats to sexual and religious liberty, free speech, privacy, and the right to be free from unwarranted, unprincipled prosecutions. She writes with a sense of the past, an understanding of the present, and concern about the future of American freedom.

"For 20 years, social critic Wendy Kaminer has eloquently and ardently defended civil liberties." - Reason



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I’M DYSFUNCTIONAL, YOU’RE DYSFUNCTIONAL: The Recovery Movement & Other Self-Help Fashions

I'm Dysfunctional You're DysfunctionalIn this groundbreaking critique of America’s personal development tradition, Wendy Kaminer deftly diagnoses a national movement (and multi-million-dollar industry) with a strong tendency toward authoritarianism, a cult of victimhood, and a nasty streak of covert religiosity.

"If a Nobel Prize were awarded for clarity and sanity in a world gone mad, Wendy Kaminer would be on her way to Stockholm." - Newsday

"Explores...the ominous effect of all this institutionalized whining on our culture and incisive and provocative argument." Washington Post

"Extremely witty...Ms. Kaminer has a real gift for honing her anger to an epigrammatic edge....We can make good use of [her] skepticism." - New York Times Book Review

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SLEEPING WITH EXTRA-TERRESTRIALS: The Risk of Irrationalism and Perils of Piety

SLEEPING WITH EXTRA-TERRESTRIALS: The Risk of Irrationalism and Perils of PietySleeping with Extra-Terrestrials explores our intoxication with the irrational, demonstrating how religion, spirituality, and popular therapies threatened to replace rational thought with supernaturalism and impassioned but unexamined personal testimony. With both wit and empathy, Kaminer presciently critiqued what many people hold sacred.

"Kaminer, a wonderfully funny social critic, takes on a host of threats to rational thought." - Molly Ivins

"Wonderful Wendy Kaminer! With wit and style and cold hard facts, she skewers contemporary credulity." - Katha Pollitt


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TRUE LOVE WAITS: Essays and Criticism

TRUE LOVE WAITS: Essays and CriticismTrue Love Waits brings together fifteen years of Kaminer’s best writings from publications including The New York Times, The Atlantic, and the Village Voice, focused on her fundamental themes, self-reliance, justice, sexual equality, and civil liberty.

"...rational, readable explanations of issues that see far too little of such treatment." - New York Times Book Review

"One of our sharper, wittier social critics, Wendy Kaminer writes lucidly and provocatively about feminism, victimism, and civil rights ... (S)he’s a skilled rhetorician, winning readers’ attention with poignant anecdotes and examples, and then launching into dead-on seamlessly supported arguments. She’s also funny … an intellectually refreshing, challenging read." Boston Globe

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IT’S ALL THE RAGE: Crime and Culture

IT’S ALL THE RAGE: Crime and CultureFrom our decrying of "the abuse excuse" to our cheers of "Free the Juice," our reactions to violent crime fluctuate wildly. Expanding on her well-known ideas about self-help and the American psyche, Wendy Kaminer shows us how pop-psychology and religious fervor vie with law and rationality in our courtrooms and in our minds.

"...this provocative book certainly accomplishes what it intended – to make readers scrutinize a web of cultural contradictions and reflect on their own and society’s vicious cycle of rage and far too shallow repentance." - The Washington Post

"I ... hereby sentence House GOP leaders to a course in remedial logic ... But I would offer suspended sentences to anyone who agreed to undergo treatment by reading It’s All the Rage ... Kaminer shows admirable frankness about where’ she’s coming from ...she thinks out loud, writes with a refreshing show-me attitude, and offers keen insights." - The Washington Monthly

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A FEARFUL FREEDOM: Women’s Flight from Equality
In A Fearful Freedom, Kaminer explores the historic feminist divide over protectionism and equal rights for women. Combining history and legal analysis, Kaminer presents an impassioned argument for equality and individualism.

"Wendy Kaminer has taken upon herself the task of weeding out ...the tangled underbrush of ideas and anxieties and policies that have grown up in thirty years of the modern feminist movement ...The author is wise, even-handed, literate and even gracious in a confident, feminist way. A new generation of consciousness-raising groups has begun meeting all across the United States. A Fearful Freedom is the book they should be reading and discussing." Newsday

WOMEN VOLUNTEERING: The Pleasure, Pain, and Politics of Unpaid Work
Women Volunteering offers a bold, new feminist perspective on unpaid work. If volunteering reinforced traditional notions of femininity, Wendy Kaminer argues, it has also been an essential source of work outside the home for married, middle class women. "Is volunteering good or bad for women," Kaminer asks. "It has always been a double edged sword. No wonder it has been so divisive ... From the beginning, volunteering has both liberated women and kept them in their place."


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Find The Books Online

Worst Instincts is available at Beacon Press and

Free for All is available at Beacon Press and

I'm Dysfunctional, You're Dysfunctional is available at

Sleeping with Extra-Terrestrials is available at

True Love Waits is available at

It's All the Rage is available at beepmusic